Hiving the New Bees

Hiving the new bees last night was like a shortened version of toilet training several children. The bees arrived by Next Day Air UPS last night. Our UPS man sprinted off the truck with our bees, noting that it had been a very long day with a lot of noisy bees. As I cooed over the new bees, I told him being with the bee’s noise had been good for his health. I don’t think he really believed me.

I set the two boxes of wildly buzzing bees on the cool of the back porch and left them to settle down for a few hours. An overnight journey from sun warmed hives in Georgia to the still cool backroads of New Hampshire must be disconcerting, to say the least.

After supper, I donned my attractive bee suit and got to work. Will and Jim were off on a school field trip, so I did not have their assistance in hiving the new bees. They also took the camera, so I have no pictures either.

The two boxes of bees came attached to one another by thin wooden dowels, so the first thing I did was cut the boxes apart with my big pruners. Not an appropriate use of the tool, but it worked. This was necessary because I needed to work with only one box of bees at a time.

It’s not the easiest thing to use a screwdriver to pry up the opening of the bee box when you are wearing bees gloves. They are thick and cumbersome, but I prevailed without gouging myself. I managed to pry up the lid, remove the small box that held the queen bee, and then cover the box again with only a few bees airborne.

The first hiving was like toilet training my first child. Ben said one day when he was about two and a half that he was finished with diapers and we never thought about it again. I wondered what other mothers were talking about with M&M bribes for using the toilet and years of night diapers. I was certain toilet training was a piece of cake. So too hiving the first box of bees.

I removed the cork plug that kept the queen in her little box during the journey north and gently placed this box down into the hive. As I placed her, I could see her moving about the box alive and well, waiting to be united with her attentive workers. Then I poured several thousand of her worker bees on top of hive. They all poured down into the hive with such sublime order and harmony. Before I could even get the lid on the hive back on, the bees were moving towards their queen as fast as they could. It was clearly a gentle group of bees, already bonded to their new queen.

I went for a little walk in my bee suit to give the stray bees flying around the hive a chance to get settled in before I confused them by hiving the second box of bees. I ran into a neighbor who made no comment on the fact that I was wearing an enormous white suit and big black boots while out for a stroll on a summer evening. Perhaps she was thinking, “to each his own said the lady as she kissed the cow.”

Returning to hive the second box, my gathered audience of Lizzy, Emily, and our friend Heather Gallagher assumed that box two would go in as sweetly as box one, as did I. But this group of bees was feisty. The queen went into the hive, but a good half of the bees weren’t interested in following her. They didn’t want to leave the box and couldn’t be shaken out.

One beekeeper whose tomes I read last year said he hived bees by creating a ramp for them to walk up into the hive, giving them choice in the matter of whether to occupy their new home or not. I assembled a ramp and positioned the box of bees so that if they left their box they would be on the ramp with the entrance to their home dead ahead. I sat with them encouraging each bee that stared up the ramp to keep going. If I had had M&Ms to bribe them with, I would have used them. Like toilet training all my children after Ben, this hiving was more of a challenge. This second hive had attitude. The bees willing to leave the box in which they had arrived wanted to fly around my head, not walk up the ramp into the hive. I cajoled them until it got dark. Song, pep talks, everything but snacks were involved. Finally I abandoned my post, figuring that eventually the remainder of reluctant bees would join their new queen sometime during the night.

I got up this morning at six to see how things were going. Hive number one was humming quietly with nary a stray bee. Hive two was staying true to its character. Instead of abandoning their travel box, the bees had clustered together inside the box and stayed there all night.

Donning my bee suit once again, I cut the sides off this box and started to scoop these bees to the entrance of their hive. This was their signal to take off in all directions and then settle all over my bee suit. I began to lift individual bees to the mouth of the hive and that is where I have been the last two hours. Each bee that turned and headed into the hive gave me a moment of delight. Finally with only one sting for my time with the bees, I got the message that they could take it from there. The message was sort of a sassy, “Get Out of Here” not some honeyed words of thanks.

Just like surviving the arduous toilet training of child two, three, and four, there was a feeling of accomplishment that came with sort of hiving the second hive. Though as I positioned what felt like my eight thousandth bee at the mouth of the hive and scooted her towards her new home, I had to smile at cooperative hive number one which had given not a moments worry.

I guess we need the challenges to appreciate the sweet and serene moments, the easy toilet training experiences and the one that leave you feeling like spitting nails. Ah Life! Maybe it’s all that time with the bees of hive number two, but this morning it feels easier to not worry and just be happy. And grateful.

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